I have been telling stories for a long time. I started as a newspaper technology reporter – worked for the Globe & Mail, National Post and Bloomberg News.
At the height the dot-com boom (in hindsight, probably not the best timing), I was seduced by a friend to co-found a start-up.
We thought we were all going to become millionaires….sadly, it didn’t happen.
Along the way, I have worked for three start-ups, including Sysomos, which was acquired by Marketwired.
And for the past seven years, I’ve running a consulting company that helps start-ups tell better story (AKA marketing).
Many of my clients are start-ups that have a product but have hard time telling people what to do and why it matters.
It goes without saying that I believe that stories and storytelling matters.
And storytelling is more important than ever because we live in a noisy, multi-tasking world.
The average person reads or sees more than 100,000 words per day – email, blog posts, social media, videos, advertising, text messages.
People are distracted. People check their smartphones 150 times a day
At the same time, people aren’t paying attention or they’re faking it.
Some of you, for example, are probably checking out the Blue Jays-Yankees game. What’s the score, by the way?
Stories are how we communicate - One study found that 65% of our daily conversations involve stories….and gossip, which are stories about other people.
Stories are how we learn - the recall rate on information is 8 to 10 times higher using a story as opposed to using facts and figures.
So if stories are so effective, we all should be telling them, right?
Given the most importance of storytelling, here’s the sad truth (and I know this from personal experience): most entrepreneurs are bad storytellers.
To me, this is bizarre because the lives of entrepreneurs are full of drama and excitements – ups, downs, wins, losses, challenges, battles – it’s all fantastic material for storytelling.
So why are entrepreneurs such bad storytellers?
One, they’re obsessed with product rather than customers. It means they are focused on the problems they are trying to solve, rather than their customers.
Two, entrepreneurs don’t know their customers well enough. I would even suggest they take their customers for granted.
As a result, they don’t know their interests, aspirations, fears, problems, etc.
If you don’t know that, you can’t tell stories good stories.
So how do you tell good stories?
Here’s an important place to start:
t’s not about the product, it’s about the experience that you product delivers to customers…and then telling stories that amplify that experience.
I’m an enthusiastic tennis player.
When I see an TV ad featuring Roger Federer, I don’t care about the materials in his tennis racquet; I care about how using a Wilson racquet will give me an awesome slicing backhand.
Airbnb doesn’t talk about being an online service for finding cool places to stay around the world. They talk about the joys of travel and the sense of belonging everywhere
And GoPro doesn’t make small, rugged cameras. They deliver an experience that lets you capture life’s adventures…and then share them with friends and family.
So here’s the thing about storytelling
You need to adapt a different approach or mindset – in some respects, you need to think like a reporter.
The world around you is teeming with stories.
You can find themeverywhere - coffee meetings, conferences, books, blog posts, casual conversations, movies, videos.
It’s about being customer-centric and crafting stories that engage, educate or entertain your target audiences.
So you want to start embracing storytelling?
Here’s some homework:
Carry a notebook with you – a paper one, not a smartphone app.
Think of yourself as a story idea collector. Write down all the stories ideas that emerge.
At the end of the week, identify the ones you think have the most potential. It could be one or two out of 10. It’s like exercising, the more you do it, the better you’ll become at identifying the good stories.